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Cornish Mammal Conference

On the 1st October 2016, over 130 mammal enthusiasts from both within the University of Exeter and Falmouth’s Penryn Campus and across Cornwall (and even as far into foreign territory as Devon!), gathered at the former location to hear from 11 different researchers and conservationists working to protect Cornish mammals, and improve the ways we live alongside them.

The day kicked off with two introductory talks by members of the Cornwall Mammal Group committee – event organiser and Biodiversity & Conservation MSc student at the campus, Peter Cooper laid out the thinking behind the conference and how students right here have become engaged in mammalogy, while senior lecturer in zoology and CMG chair Sarah Hodge illustrated the current state and conservation priorities identified for mammals here in Cornwall. For our keynote talk, we were very pleased to welcome the chair of the Mammal Society, Dr Fiona Mathews from the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus, who told us about her work with horseshoe bats and the attitudes that have developed around their protective legislation.

After tea and coffee session 2 began by showcasing how applied research is being used to answer some of our questions regarding mammal ecology and conservation locally. Billy Heaney, MRes student at the Penryn Campus, spoke about haul-out use in grey seals and how impacts such as human disturbance affect this, Cally Ham from University College London introduced us to the work and findings of the badger-cattle contact programme which aims to investigate Bovine Tb pathways, and PhD student Nigel Sainsbury talked about his MSc project investigating the varied attitudes of the Cornish public to the possibility of beaver reintroduction in the duchy.

A pasty-filled lunch preceded session 3, exploring mammal conservation on the ground. Derek Gow chronicled the history and reintroduction work his consultancy conducts for the water vole, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Cheryl Marriot spoke about their upcoming community conservation initiative ‘Project Hedgehog’, and Dan Jarvis of British Divers Marine Life Rescue recalled some of the many stranded cetacean and seal call-outs they have received from around the Cornish coastline.

Before the day was at an end, our bumper-long session 4 was a discussion on the future of Cornish mammals, and given the flow on conversation could’ve easily gone on for twice as long. The panel chair, Professor Robbie McDonald, welcomed Fiona Mathews, Derek Gow and Cheryl Marriot back to the floor alongside local farmer Chris Jones, who amongst themselves covered topics which largely centred around conservation post-Brexit, the impacts of agriculture on mammal life, and bovine Tb and badgers. The talk was lively and often veered toward debate territory, and was a hugely engaging session to end on.

Overall, this was a hugely successful event that gave all plenty of food for thought on how we live alongside our fellow mammals locally, and hopefully spurred a few into action for those not already heavily involved in Cornish mammal study and conservation. Thank you to all who attended, and to the marvellous speakers that made the day what it was.

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